FOMO. Fear of missing out!

If you use social media, or are entrenched in trading platforms / forums, trawl a bit of reddit here and there, or are even remotely engaged in social environments, you’ll have heard of this term. However, if you haven’t, allow me to (controversially) reference Urban Dictionary:

FOMO (noun)

| Fōmō |

A state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out;

  • The fear that you will miss out on something great;
  • A form of social anxiety – a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media websites.

Why do I mention FOMO and reference the community’s dictionary? Well, if you’ve spent any time on LinkedIn lately, you would likely have noticed an influx of #Agile and #agile conversations. Yes, yes; guilty as charged, but you’ll see someone talking about it no matter where you look!

What you don’t usually see, however, is the discussions that happen behind closed doors. We’ve been lucky enough to have had the pleasure of speaking to organisations globally, so I guess we could argue that we do see and get involved in conversations about any organisation’s Agile/agile journey. This, we would love to share.

What we want to share, in particular, are the dangers that come with Agile FOMO. For example, one of the first questions we ask when we meet with new clients who want a structure that supports Agile is “Why?”. The reaction is often similar. It’s a look around the room, confused, where someone will respond “I am not sure. It’s management’s decision; it’s come from the top!”.

Let’s pause and reflect. If your own team does not know why you want to go Agile/agile, then are you really just setting them up to fail?

Figure out your organisational objective!

Traditionally you would kick off an initiative with a business case (often 30-40 pages long) to prove key drivers and benefits of proceeding with that particular initiative. It can take months collating the information and finally getting a decision. Whereas in the Agile world, it often sounds like things are just being done! Is that really the case? Are organisations acting simply on the basis of FOMO?

When deciding to go Agile, you should really think about the cultural requirements before you can progress. Here are a few of the ones we think should be considered:

  • Top-down commitment and bottom-up understanding;
  • Clear communication of overall objectives, setting expectations and sparking an appetite for change;
  • PMO & executive level need specific training to understand the change in approach and what will be required of them; (can we please stop forgetting about this one!)
  • Broader teams need a more general knowledge of Agile fundamentals and, in addition to upfront training investment, this also needs ongoing commitment of resources;
  • A clear roll-out approach and the change strategy needs to be well planned and integrated with other transformation initiatives, to avoid confusion and maintain levels of staff engagement and to minimise change fatigue.

Lastly, organisations need to remember to be situationally aware. Pay attention to the current culture and use the experience of the people to help guide the development of good behaviours. So much time is wasted on debating definitions of Agile and how it should be applied. What is not being considered is the fact that Agile, like any other framework, method or approach, should be applied in doses as required for the situation an organisation is in. This means what works for your competitors, does not mean it will work for you!

The typical challenges for attaining organisational objective

If you are seriously considering Agile, or are in the midst of an Agile transformation, here are some of the common challenges (by no means exclusive) that we have been seeing:

  • Lack of understanding between the executive’s vision and the requirements of staff to deliver it
  • Lack of experience with basic agile methods
  • Culture or company philosophy at odds with core agile values
  • General organisation resistance to change
  • Not enough/effective collaboration
  • Strong silo mentality, us vs. them
  • Not enough training
  • Lack of organisational maturity
  • Inconsistency, gaps and ineffective delivery with traditional methods
  • Quality issues where agile and non-agile worlds collide or interface

Before you jump on the Agile bandwagon for fear of missing out, perhaps stop and look at the risks if this is not successful, take your time to approach it incrementally, testing and learnings every step of the way. Do this as an organisation.

Oh, and remember, Agile is not a destination; it’s a journey!